An Introduction To Using GDB Under Emacs
What is GDB?
GDB is a debugger. A debugger is a tool which can help you find bugs in your
code. It will allow you to follow your program as it executes to see what
happens at each step. The program can be stopped on any line or at the start
of any function and various types of information can be displayed, such as
the values of variables and the sequence of function calls that got you where
you are. If your program causes a segmentation fault, GDB will show you where
it happened. Advanced users can alter the values of variables to experiment
with temporary bug fixes and view the contents of the stack.
The greatest advantage to using GDB within Emacs is that it will work with
your source code (.c file). Whenever execution of the program is stopped (by
a breakpoint, a segmentation fault, or some other signal), Emacs will display
your source code in a window and will mark the line on which it has stopped
with an => symbol. You can also use Emacs to cut and paste commands,
scan through your GDB output and save it as a text file.
Starting GDB under Emacs
To run GDB in Emacs, first split your Emacs screen by typing `C-x 2'
(C- stands for Control) and enter the window in which you want
to run GDB by clicking in it with your left mouse button. Now type the
command `M-x gdb' followed by `Return'. M- is read as
Meta. On a Sun machine, Meta is the diamond next to the spacebar. On
an SGI, it is the Alt key. M- is equivalent to ESC,
except that you don't release Meta before pressing the next key, which makes
it easier and faster than ESC.
The Emacs message bar will now display the message:
Run gdb (like this): gdb
Enter the name of your executable program. This is typically `a.out'
unless you have renamed it (which any self-respecting programmer should).
The GDB window will display a message and then present you with the prompt
(gdb). Whenever your cursor is on one of these prompts you can enter a
GDB command. Pressing `Return' without entering a command will cause it
to execute the previous command again. This is very convenient when stepping
through a program line-by-line.
All GDB commands can be abbreviated unless doing so renders them ambiguous.
Most of the commonly used commands can be abbreviated to one character. The
following command descriptions are in the form: command (abbreviation)
arguments. Arguments listed in brackets are optional.
- help (h) [class][command]
- With no arguments, this
lists the command classes. If a class is specified, it will briefly describe
commands in that class. If a command is specified, it will provide help on
using that command.
- quit (q)
- Exit GDB. Type `C-x k' to kill the GDB buffer.
Loading and Running Programs
In order for GDB to be able to debug your program, you must compile the
program with the `-g' option. Each time you recompile your program, you
must reload it into GDB using the file command.
- file file
- Load a new executable file.
- cd directory
- If you start from within a directory
different from the one containing your executable file, you will need to use
this command to change to the proper directory.
- run (r) [arglist]
- This starts your program just as you
would start it on the command line, except that `r' now replaces the
name of your program. For example, if you normally run you program with
`a.out 6 < inputfile > outputfile', you should run it under GDB with the
command `r 6 < inputfile > outputfile'.
- If your program is running, typing C-c twice will
interrupt it and give you a GDB prompt. The program is only paused at this
point and can be resumed with continue or destroyed with kill.
- kill (k)
- Terminate the program.
Moving Through the Program
GDB will normally run your program until completion, until you type `C-c
C-c' or until the program asks for some input. In order to tell GDB to
pause while running your program, you must set a breakpoint. Once the
program has stopped, various commands will tell it how to proceed. More
advanced users may want to experiment with watchpoints, although in general
they are tricky to use and cause your program to run very slowly.
- break (b) [function][line]
- Set a breakpoint.
If given a function name, GDB will break whenever that function is called. If
given a line number, it will break whenever that line of your source code is
- C-x space
- If you type this sequence while your cursor is in
your source code, GDB will set a breakpoint at the line on which your cursor
- delete (d) n
- Delete the breakpoint or
watchpoint whose number is specified by n.
- disable (dis) n
- Temporarily disable the breakpoint or
watchpoint whose number is specified by n.
- enable (ena) n
- Undo the effects of disable.
- step (s)
- step executes the next line of code. If the
next line contains a function call, step will enter that function.
- next (n)
- next is similar to step except that it
will step over function calls.
- continue (c)
- Resumes execution of the program until the next
breakpoint is reached.
- finish (fin)
- Continue until the current function has returned.
- until (u) [function][line]
- Continue until the
program reaches a source line greater than the current one. It can also be
given an argument similar to break and will continue until the
specified line or function is reached. until will also break upon
returning from the current function.
- print (p) expression
- This command performs several
functions. It is most commonly used to print out the value of a variable. It
can be given any C expression, including casts. For example, `p (int)
A->array' will display the sixth element of the array specified by
A->array as an integer. print will try to display its output in
a nice format. If given a structure, it will show each field and value. If
given a pointer to an array of characters, it will display the entire
If an assignment or function call is given to print, it will perform
the operation and display the result. For example `p a = 5' will set
the value of the variable a to 5. If `p f(4, a)' is then
performed, it will execute the function f with the arguments 4
and 5 and will display the value returned by f.
- info (i) [b]
- Without a type specified, info will display a list
of all info subcommands. `info b' will list all of the
breakpoints and watchpoints you have set.
- backtrace (bt)
- Display the history of function calls leading
up to the current line.
Written by Doug Rohde, email@example.com